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Graphic Muscles

November 1, 2006

If you don’t want your animated characters to look fake, you need to work on their muscles. Jian Zhang, professor of computer graphics at ­Bourne­mouth University in En­gland, says the key to realism is to build a ­character’s muscles first (left), then add skin. It’s counterintuitive for an artist who has a ­character’s external appearance in mind, but it makes for ­natural­-­looking movements. An algorithm created by Zhang and colleagues combines the muscle­-based model with existing ones based on the movements of skin alone.

Red areas show where muscle models make animated skin look more realistic. (Credit: Xiaosong Yang/Xin He).